A Life Story on Picture Theatres

A snippet of my ‘picture theatre’ Life Story

My mother was a young mother in that year, and told us many delightful stories of how my father had courted her in the dress circle of the picture theatre. The picture theatre held a cultural significance in small towns equal to, if not higher than, the role religion and church played – you went to church and you went to the pictures.

Dad or any other date she wooed with her simmering smile and delightful attitude to life, would snake his arm around her shoulders as she munched on the ‘Old Gold’ box of chocolates he had proudly pulled from his pocket. Their eyes never left the safety and security of the fabulous movie star queens that adorned the huge screen.

My ‘courting’ days twenty years later were fairly similar to my mother’s time. Things don’t change much in country towns. I distinctly remember my first date when I was too scared to even open the box of ‘Old Gold’ chocolates that my hopefully ‘not hungry date’ bought me. When I saw the box of chocolates were the same as my mother described, I felt totally reincarnated – Mum and I both got the same box of chocolates on a date at the pictures and sitting in the Dress Circle.

My mother loved the make-believe life and story created in the pictures. In fact, I would say Mum was obsessed with movie stars all her life. To be fair to me, Mum was of an era known as Hollywood’s Golden Era and idolised such actresses as Claudette Colbert, Jean Harlow, Vivien Leigh, Rita Hayworth and Ginger Rogers.

My young picture going era in the 1950’s seemed to twirl around characters with cowboy genres with the likes of John Wayne and Marlon Brando, and some bad comedies like the ‘Carry on’ series. The early 1960’s did see some improvement with youth-oriented films and light musicals starring Debbie Reynolds, Sandra Dee and Doris Day. Parkes was probably a year behind everywhere else with movie trends as those huge reels of film had to physically make their way around the country towns, spending just a few days before moving onto the next town, hence the reason we were so far behind in movie trends.

It was always exciting to me as a child to walk past the Century Theatre and casually spy the departing reels of film sitting on the sidewalk waiting to be picked up by the courier and taken to the next town. Sometimes, I felt extra lucky when the courier had been and taken the old reels and left the ‘coming’ attraction. Film was such a puzzle to me. It was beyond my imagination how such magic, sound and movement could be captured on thin film wrapped around large reels.

Mum frequently attended the pictures as a child with her sister and it was the one special treat that was retained through the hard times of their childhood and the depression error. Mum always told how a penny’s worth of boiled lollies waited patiently crunched up in a brown paper bag and held tightly in nervous little hands. At interval the sweets would be popped excitedly and lovingly in eager open mouths and enjoyed with the same enthusiasm reserved for expensive and rare delicacies.   Money for shop bought treats was minimal, but what they had, mum and her sister enjoyed.

In my childhood, it was the violet crunchie bar which broke the gold filling in my front tooth. Mum had saved every penny for me to have the dentist insert that filling, and couldn’t utter a word when I told her the Violent Crunchie bar and the gold filling was in my stomach. I never did eat Violent Bar’s after that and was ever so grateful when Cadbury released the Crunchie with a softer honeycomb which fulfilled my love of that sweet.